various ways to see the world: rational and religious,
philosophical and scientific, historical and static,
in terms of matter and energy, subject and object,
animate and inanimate, order and chaos, fact and
image, code and expression, good and evil, etc.
Everything is not a
pronoun but the whole viewed through a prism that
splits the whole into blocks and bonds between them.
It is not just a list of all things but the list of
their neighborhoods, i.e., all the other things
directly connected to the given one.
definitely a pronoun and it stands in a mysterious
and troubling relation to Everything.
"Everything is water," we could echo Thales of
Miletus. A Graham Greene's character makes a casual
note at a funeral in The Human Factor:
a pity one couldn't throw a man back into the river of
life as one could throw a fish.
Graham Greene, The Human Factor
Life is like river: it runs only downward. Loss,
error, illness, and often even love are catastrophic
A man in love walks
through the world like an anarchist carrying a time
The Human Factor
overflows the dams of gain, victory, and
triumph, losing energy along the way. The
energy of the sun can return the water back from the
ocean to the river head, but there is little solace
for an individual in the turnover of matter. For
millennia, only the soul has been a matter of
much affection on my part for the unity of the
Everything, as with any affection, it is easy to
lose the sober view of the object: the Everything
has a composite nature. It is made of our internal
individual world and the external one like the
surface of the Earth is made of land and water. The
two components are dramatically different: the solid
land has borders and the fluid ocean does not.
As with all borderlines, even the distinction
between land and water is blurred in the swamp and
in the tidal zone of the sand beach.
Of course, we, humans, are islands, but we are made
of salt, share the same rain, and have our own
brooks running into the ocean. Myself, however, is
not a part of We.
presence of humans in the picture of Everything
calls for a coarse classification of its components.
If the humans could conspicuously stand apart,
it would certainly break the unity. Humans
need to have some neighbors in the systematics of
exercise in such rough classification , I see the
following basic division of Everything along two
dimensions: complexity and size. On complexity, see
Essay 17, On Complexity.
Instead of size I could say "multiplicity."
I prefer, however, a down-to-earth term to a
technical one. Anyway, they both need explanation.
I understand size as the property of
having multiple copies of similar units or blocks
(generators). A physicist would call this property degeneration
(see NOTE 1), the bad connotation of which makes yet
another argument on behalf of size. A more
direct argument: one is one, but many can be counted
in the units of one. Size is a number of
unities. The sequences 11111 and 111 have
different size. Neither Myself nor Everything has size in
the sense I use this tern here. They are singular.
the following four types of systems, I illustrate
them by sequences of numbers in square brackets, to
give an intuitive idea. This classification is not
rigorous and logical: it is intuitive.
small (SS) systems.[ 1 2 3 4]
clockwork mechanism has a limited number of
parts and they can be in a limited number of states.
The clockwork's behavior is highly predictable. Most
man-made Things belong to this category, at least
ideally. I would put the solar system in
this category, too, but it does not matter because
we cannot do anything about it.
and small systems deserve respect. They are the real
tidal zones of the Everything from which the
creatures of higher status have been crawling out
since the genesis of life on earth. Among SS
systems we see the extremely important switching
device as well as the Turing
machine (see also Essay
15, On menage a trois in the Stone Age).
the behavior of my personal computer, I can
see that it is a clockwork with an attitude of its
own, which, I suspect, is inspired by Microsoft
droplet of water consists of a very large number of
indistinguishable molecules. A single molecule of
water represents all the water in the
universe. To be accurate, the molecules of
water have somewhat different properties such as
speed, rotation, and even shape, but they constantly
and very quickly change them. Water is a
systems contain multiple identical (or closely
similar) copies of a limited number of species.
complex (SC) systems. [ 1 2
3 4 5 ....N; N is a large number]
complex systems have a large variety of components
but a few duplicates.
only one brain, one left eye, one right eye, and one
digestive system. Such systems have their
statistics, too, but in time instead of space.
Individual animal and human are such systems. They
are complex, because of a large number of
components, states, and interactions, but small
because they are not in multiple copies (except
at the cellular level).
of the system that is not an ensemble of a large
number of similar units but a structure where a
large number of components exist in a single copy
can be catastrophic: it has no spare parts. A
symmetrical organism with pairs of organs and
extremities is a weak compromise. The systems of
this kind are almost as vulnerable to catastrophes
as the watch under the mallet, but they still have
significant flexibility because their cellular
subsystems are large.
put some large Things and institutions, like
airliner, ship, and business company, into the same
category. They all have unique functional points or
organs and they have a limited margin of viability
with duplicated systems, like the US government with
president and vice-president.
Living organisms, including humans, from this point
of view, fall into this category.
ensembles of humans are large and complex,
but not because all humans are as different as the
parts of the clock. The similarity between humans
largely exceeds the differences between the types.
Such systems may seem simple, and in a sense they
are, but only in a very limited sense. Ensembles of
consumers are certainly almost as simple as ants.
Society and ecosystem have a large number of units
consisting of large number of individuals.
The complexity of modern society comes not as much
from the radical differences between human
components (as it is in the case of organism) as
from the hierarchical structure of the society.
People take positions in a unique structure where
any position can be filled up with a number of
has statistics over both time and space.
very difficult to destroy a nation, culture, and
ethnicity. They rather evolve and merge than go down
in an instant because an empty position in the
structure can be replenished from the mere number of
identical or closely similar components. In this
aspect, societies and biological species are like
water. No revolution or war can completely destroy a
politically developed nation, at least it has never
happened in thousand years (I might be wrong),
although mass extinctions might have happened in
early history and attempts are fresh in memory.
Colonial history, too, might provide some sad
the Bible left the names of many peoples that do
not exist anymore, but their genes and memes are
spread among existing nations and cultures. At the
same time, there are a lot of modern ethnicities
that carry very ancient names, not only Egyptians,
Iranians, and Jews, but also less known ones, like
Assyrians. There is an interesting
discussion on Assyrians, Egyptians, Jews, and
other modern descendants of legendary ancient
In the surrounding world, therefore, we see four
kinds of dynamic systems that conventionally can be
called, somewhat like car models:
small and simple (clockwork)
LS: large and simple (matter)
SC: small and complex (organisms, large Things,
LC: large and complex (society, ecosystem, economy).
above types not only have fuzzy borders but can form
composites. Thus, an organism is mostly water.
Society comprises humans, Things, and even some
animals. The Everything includes them all.
purpose of my classification is nothing but to show
the composite (heterogeneous) character of the
Everything as I see it, with the important
difference between the unique and the
multiple. The main subject of this Essay,
however, is an even coarser classification.
Everything include Myself?
are inside our own skin and look at both the world
outside and the world inside, talk to ourselves and
write diaries, we are absolutely unique and
singular. We are as unique as the Everything.
everything in the world exists in many copies:
stars, atoms, plants, animals, Things, books,
people. Even a unique piece of visual art can be
coded, stored, and reproduced with most of its
content preserved, and a documentary is a fair
enough substitute for a trip to a faraway place.
Even extinct species can be reconstructed in a
movie. Modern art in general (Essay 20, On
Artificial Art ) can be approximately
reconstructed simply by walking through its
combinatorial space and finding a similar and close
object. This may be true about any art, as soon as
we know the dimensions of the creative space. Any
cubist picture of Pablo Picasso or Francis Bacon can
be redeformed into a new, recognizable, but yet
unseen picture. We simply crawl through the
combinatorial space of art, as a worm through an
apple, visiting Raphael, Rembrandt, and Rothko and
imitating them, as the art forgers do. Moreover, we
can mate, blend, and cross them. Transformations of
this kind are often done in theater and
could say that the same is true about any individual
representative of a species. The combinatorial
dimensions of a species of fish (scales, fins, eyes,
shape, etc.) can produce all possible
individual fish of this species, and the same
can be true about humans. Apparently, evolution was
playing with pieces of genetic Lego when it
constructed new species. The fish, however, do not
leave diaries, and we do not know how one diary
would differ from another.
To tell the truth, all human diaries are, in a way,
alike, but not for their authors.
individual is unique, alone, and if it breaks down
like Humpty-Dumpty, it cannot be put together again.
The species, on the contrary, are resilient,
adaptable, and they would rather evolve into other
species than completely perish. The dinosaurs go on
living as lizards. Monarchy goes on living as
monopoly. Aristocracy lives on as rich and famous.
Even feudalism lives on as modern company (Essay
5. On Medieval America).
Myself does not fit
any of the four classes of Everything because it is
small and large at the same time.
It is small because nothing in it exists in multiple
It is large because it reflects large systems, lives
among them, and manipulates them.
not human species but Myself, I, Me
that stands apart and breaks the symmetry of
Everything, its systematics, and neat logic. I
belongs to Everything and stands outside of it at
the same time. It is a stressful subject if
you think about it too much. The brook of philosohy
has been running through millennina from this crack
in our mind.
It is the mystery of the individual consciousness
that divides Everything into its land and water,
with a twilight zone where the dream and the fact
are both just gray shadows. It is from the interface
between them, I believe, that art comes into the
double nature of the Everything-Myself relation come
not only art and philosophy, but also
religion, science, politics, and the mundane
experience that could be managed well without
philosophy and religion.
important, from it comes ideology, which is neither
of the above. Ideology spans from the primate of the
anthill over the ant to the ideology of ultimate
regal individualism: Après moi le déluge.
Ideology is always centered on an individual. Mass
ideology simply means that the majority has the same
believe that the subject of the relation between
myself and others is the core of ideology. It is not
completely covered by ethics and philosophy.
I am unique
and others are not similar to myself. I am all
that matters. Us is temporary and
I am unique
but others are similar to myself and I can
identify myself with them up to a point.
I am unique
but a few others are Us, an extension of
myself. The rest are a different kind, Them.
I am unique
and others are extensions of myself. Who hurts
them hurts me.
herd, flock, and pack ideology is not quite what
altruism means because the latter is always
personal: it is a sacrifice for another person or a
couple of the closest ones. Altruism is a form of
egotism: alter-egotism. Collectivism of the Soviet
type required a sacrifice for the faceless society,
and, apparently, so does Islamic brotherhood.
like the Cuban Patria o muerte was
valued in the antiquity more than altruism. I cannot
deny that the collectivist idea has an instinctive
appeal. Many people risk their lives for strangers,
lands, and ideals. To die for an idea sounds great
and martyrs are worshipped.
I suspect, however, that it is the iron cage of Us
that in tribal "anti-something" ideologies limits
the freedom of an individual who, in a loose net of
individualism, would value his or her life more than
principles. A circle of friends, the most benign
form of Us, can seriously limit the freedom
of an individual not just by peer pressure but by
the height of the transition barrier on the way out.
A teenager may prefer to die rather than break the
bonds, and a terrorist may prefer to die rather than
betray trust or break an oath.
The ways of life of teenagers and terrorists seem
evolutionary archaic as compared with the modern
American denial of loyalty (see NOTE 2).
The others—how much are they like myself? This is
what ideology is about. The views of a
dictator, racist, Marxist, nationalist, humanist,
terrorist, criminal, and even a big boss mark up
different ideologies. Ideology sorts out the people
into Me, Us, and Them.
essence of a political ideology is entirely
topologic: there is a selected point, its
neighborhood, and the rest of the space. Ideology is
topology (see Essay 22, On Errors) on a set
with a selected point.
Here are some examples of ideologies
constructed from three elements: I, Us,
and Them. There could be more combinations.
1. I am a part of Us, the rest are Them.
There is a border between Us and Them.
2. I am
part of Us, but there are others like me
( Myself =).
3. There are others like me
but Us has open borders and can overlap.
4. There are others like me in Us
but We have closed borders, and the rest are Them.
There can be variations within this and other types
depending on the structure of relationship between
individuals: equality, domination, dictatorship,
theocracy, democracy, or republic.
are all loners among Them . I have no
loyalty to any Us, and others are like
myself. Homo homini lupus est.
people are a brotherhood of equals, a big Us:
an idealistic view. It would be realistic if not for
the competition over a limited resource, and the
resource of political power is always limited.
ideologies are perceptions of the world from the
point of view of Myself. The real world,
i.e., the world outside Myself, has no I.
The internal world, where I resides, has
only a reflection of a small part of the outer
dividing solid line in the figures means a
transition barrier. In all the above figures I
has solid borders, but in militant tribal ideologies
this barrier can be quite low.
figures the light blue field of Them has a
solid border. It separates legally recognized people
from the fourth category, the white field,
the non-people where neither of the first
violent ideologies, like Fascism, Communism (against
private owners), and Islamic terrorism, as well as
some specifically targeting violent "anti-"
ideologies of race and cast supremacy (virulent
anti-abortionists, too) exclude their targets not
only from Us but also from Them and
put them into the white field in the above figures.
Those in the white field are pests and can or must
be destroyed, always in the name of some noble
My perception of myself has been changing with time.
stage of my life I believe that details of my deeply
personal beliefs, habits, and memories do not
childhood, my world was very small and mostly
predictable. With the adulthood, the search for my
place in the rapidly expanding by experience and
education world became painful and
all-consuming. It was the time when Montaigne's Essays
assured me that I had the right—not just an
inclination—of independent thinking. I had
discovered individualism. Montaigne was my first
inoculation against communism in its post-Stalin
age, especially, after 60, I got a feeling of
shrinking self-importance, not just time. Looking
through Montaigne, while writing this Essay, I
had an impression that Montaigne saw himself only as
a sample of a human for study, a pretext for a
discussion, and its starting point, as we use the
weather to start conversation. I think that
Montaigne was a good sample because he represented
common sense not bound by ideology—the same common
sense that took over Europe and North America after
consider myself a very odd and inappropriate sample
for extrapolation. My views are usually different
from the common sense views. My actions often
surprise myself and I cannot always control them. I
never wanted to be like everybody and to dwell in
the hump of the bell curve. What I needed for
success was Ideology 3 and I did not have it.
makes me myself? I believe it is my search for the
invariances of this world as a whole. Looking back I
clearly see how it always distracted me from normal
successful life despite my honest attempts to follow
the general course. I liked the invisible world of
ideas more than anything else our civilization had
to offer and I still regard it as the highest
luxury. Today anything else has as much attraction
for me as a soap opera.
childhood I was greatly fascinated by the stories of
the polar explorers Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen,
Robert Peary, Ernest Shackleton, and Robert Scott.
It was my favorite reading at the age of ten.
I believe the idea of discovering something that had
been there unseen by others had a strong appeal to
me for the rest of my life, but I certainly lacked
the ability to make it seen by others. Besides, when
a cup of coffee is all you need to reach the mental
South Pole, it is difficult to be the first.
Anyway, I still enjoy my Sisyphean exercise
realize that in an individualistic society,
paradoxically, an individual is perceived by his or
her brand name, like a Chinese warrior by his war
banners. The transition barrier into the space of
attention is high from somebody outside the network.
NOTE. The space of attention
and network of intellectuals are two of the basic
components used by Randall
Collins to construct his The Sociology
of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual
Massachusetts, and London: The Belknap Press, 1998.
Two other components are cultural capital, which seems
similar to matter, and emotional energy, which is just
what it says: energy. There is another possible
interpretation: cultural capital as energy and
emotional energy as temperature.
This unique and revealing book
deserves the brightest spot in the space of attention
for many reasons, including its innovative, colorful,
and witty style. Its most interesting theoretical part
is highly readable and absorbing. Philosophers,
according to Randall Collins, look like a pack of
monkeys grooming or snarling at each other. Just
I do not know what matters most at the very end of
life. I suspect it is the small love circle of
Us. We shall see.
my ideology? Probably, #2: Iam part of a
small Us, but there are others like me and I
have no access to them and to their neighborhoods.
I wish I
had a different ideology, but there is nothing I can
do. It is a tortured mindset, I am punished for it,
but the punishment is sweet. Well, bitter-sweet. And
coffee is still cheap.
a. (of modes of vibration of a system) having the
same frequency. b. (of quantum states of a system)
having equal energy. --n.
2. On loyalty any many other
things.: Robert B.Reich, The Future of Success.
It is a wise, soft, prophetic book. No online review
is good enough.
Essay is the first one finished after September 11,
end of Chapter 15 of my Memoirs of 1984 I
know that if any ideology takes the place left in
the world by communism, it will be orthodoxy and
fundamentalism. In the algebra of history the
C-word stands not for Marxism-Leninism but for the
rule of orthodoxy and fundamentalism of whatever
10. Physics. a. (of modes of vibration of a
system) having the same frequency. b. (of quantum states
of a system) having equal energy. --n.
2. On loyalty any many other things.: Robert
B.Reich, The Future of Success. It is a wise, soft,
prophetic book. No online review is good enough.
3. This Essay is the first one finished after September
In the end
of Chapter 15 of my Memoirs of 1984 I wrote:
I know that if any
ideology takes the place left in the world by
communism, it will be orthodoxy and
fundamentalism. In the algebra of history the
C-word stands not for Marxism-Leninism but for the
rule of orthodoxy and fundamentalism of whatever